Account overdraw due to linked phone lines
BY STEPHANIE ZIMMERMANN email@example.com August 4, 2012 6:32PM
THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:37AM
Dear Fixer: On July 2, Verizon decided to make a $406.82 debit from my account to themselves. Meanwhile, I was swiping away with my debit card, knowing there were no problems with my account.
At some point, I decided to check my account and found out I was overdrawn.
After the initial shock wore off, I called Verizon on July 4. They said they would speak with their various departments, and I was to receive a refund in a few days.
Fast forward: Now, after being told to jump through hoops of submitting and faxing information, I was told today that I would have to go through my bank if I wanted to dispute the debit, and I would have to talk to my bank about getting the $240 in overdraft fees refunded.
It’s been almost two weeks of back-and-forth. I just want my money back. They are refusing to simply fax a letter to my bank saying this was an unauthorized payment. This has caused me great stress — please help.
Missie Summers, Valparaiso
Dear Missie: We’ve got bad news for you: The person whose account got that $406.82 payment isn’t a stranger. It’s someone you know, and now you’re going to have to try to get your money from him.
That’s what Verizon found out after we brought your problem to their attention. Apparently, back in May, when you took over this phone line from your cousin’s friend (who had an extra line he didn’t want), the friend’s remaining phone line stayed linked to your account information. So, even though you thought you had your own phone and your own phone bill, his phone had a direct line to your bank account.
You told us you never dreamed the two of you were intertwined in this way. You said you hope you can get him to pay you back.
Your letter also brings up the dangers of auto-pay. Sure, it’s convenient. But allowing anyone the ability to reach into your bank account carries inherent risks. One former call center worker posted on the Consumerist blog that working for a wireless company convinced him to never do auto-pay.
He also advised that if you ever think your phone has been stolen, you should suspend service immediately. It’s easy for the phone company to unsuspend it if you find the phone under the laundry pile the next morning. But if a thief did get your phone, they can download games and music worth hundreds of dollars in just a few hours.
Practically any time we’re online, we see an ad promising a free trial of some fabulous new product. Problem is, the consumer is often the one who feels she’s on trial.
That’s what happened to Dee of Oak Lawn, Ill., who was hooked by an ad for a teeth-whitening product. It seemed like a good deal: The sample was free and Dee only had to pay $1.95 for shipping. “You were supposed to be able to try the product and if you were not happy within 10 days, you could cancel your future shipments and membership,” Dee wrote The Fixer.
She provided her debit card and was billed within two days. But those sneaky toothpaste people did something else. They also took out $57.90 for the next shipment before she even received the sample.
Dee tried to get her bank to stop the withdrawal, but they said it couldn’t be reversed because she had given them her information.
“I doubt anything can be done, as their phone numbers are changed or disconnected and their addresses change as well,” Dee wrote. “I’d like to warn others of this scam. They got away with theft and I know I am not the only victim out there.”
What is a Costly Lesson? It’s an UNFIXABLE problem that cost someone a lot of money but holds a valuable lesson for the rest of us. If you’ve got something to warn the rest of us about, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org with Costly Lessons in the subject line. And don’t worry — with Costly Lessons, we leave out last names to prevent further embarrassment.